Brave swimmers make a splash

IT is a challenge steeped in history and widely regarded as one of the toughest and most iconic swims in the world.

But a pair of hardy fundraisers have now joined a select group of individuals to have conquered the fearsome Hellapont - a stretch of water between Europe from Asia.

Janine Edge, 51, and Helen Napper, 52, are used to braving the icy waters of the North Sea, taking a daily dip close to their homes in Aldeburgh.

But nothing could quite prepare them for the Hellapont, which starts at the Canakkale Straits in Turkey.

Few complete the energy sapping 4.5km challenge - with strong currents and choppy seas taking their toll.

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Of the 441 swimmers who took part at the end of last month only 260 made it to the finish.

English poet Lord Byron first swam the Hellapont in 1810 in honour of Leander, who in Greek Mythology would swim nightly across to his lover Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite.

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Miss Edge said: “Lord Byron always said it was the achievement of which he was most proud in his life.

“What makes it tough is the incredibly strong currents. It is also the most concentrated shipping lane in the world. The lanes are closed for two hours during the race but start up again after that so you have to complete it in that time - otherwise they have to send the rescue boats out to scoop you up.

“It was incredibly rough when we got to the start and we were warned not to go because it was too dangerous. However we took the plunge.

“It was pretty hairy. The marker boats weren’t out to show us the way so it was hard to know where we were swimming. However we stayed together and managed to get through it.”

The pair, who completed the challenge in an impressive one hour and 15 minutes and were two of just 11 women in their 50s to finish, were swimming in aid of the British Disabled Water Ski Association, which was set up by Miss Edge’s father, Tony.

“He lost his leg in the Second World War and set up the charity to enable people with a disability to take part in an exciting sport,” she said.

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